Oh Daughtry, so un-Idol of you

Oh Daughtry, so un-Idol of you

In Chris Daughtry’s “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me,” the American Idol crooner writes he is not a fan of the frog. See No. 2 item in the US Weekly  page above.  It’s OK, though. You did give me something to post on an otherwise slow Sunday night. For those of you who love Daughtry and amphibians, find out how to help at http://www.amphibianark.org.

It’s well chronicled that Panama’s amphibians are dying off because of chytrid (background on chytri click HERE). But there are steps that humans can take to slow the spread of chytrid as scientists search for a cure. Here’s a great article from Julie Ray of Examiner.com. In a nutshell, her advice is to take special steps to make sure your boots and wheels don’t accidentally spread chytrid after you visit an infected location.

Six years ago, promises were made by governments from around the world involving the mass extinctions facing so many animal classes, chief among them the amphibian class. The governments vowed to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2o1o. Well, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) just issued a report that says, in essence, “let’s not kid ourselves, when next year comes around, it’s going to be bleak.”

IUCN, which puts out the Red List of most endangered species, has produced a 150-page report that details the loss of biodiversity earth has experienced over the last 5 years. “Biodiversity continues to decline and next year no one will dispute that,” said the report’s senior editor. “It’s happening everywhere.”

Here’s a link to story I just read about this.  (Click HERE.)

An excerpt from the IUCN Web site:

The report shows nearly one third of amphibians, more than one in eight birds and nearly a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction. For some plant groups, such as conifers and cycads, the situation is even more serious, with 28 percent and 52 percent threatened respectively. For all these groups, habitat destruction, through agriculture, logging and development, is the main threat and occurs worldwide.

In the case of amphibians, the fungal disease chytridiomycosis is seriously affecting an increasing number of species, complicating conservation efforts. For birds, the highest number of threatened species is found in Brazil and Indonesia, but the highest proportion of threatened or extinct birds is found on oceanic islands. Invasive species and hunting are the main threats. For mammals, unsustainable hunting is the greatest threat after habitat loss. This is having a major impact in Asia, where deforestation is also occurring at a very rapid rate.

Got this email from the folks at Jackson Hole Film Festival. Good to see frogs are the focus for their Earth Week community event:

Happy EarthWeek.Friday evening we will host another wonderful free community event, at the Center for the Arts, featuring award-winning filmmaker Allison Argo’s latest film, FROGS: The Thin Green Line. This evocative film chronicles the current global amphibian crisis, described as the largest extinction since the age of dinosaurs.

We are not immune here in Jackson Hole–after the film, you will hear about the creatures in our area, and the research underway with biologists Deb Patla and Peter Murphy. We will be distributing identification cards widely throughout the Valley, so you (and anyone you know–take a few to give away) can become a citizen-scientist in the coming months. Who knows, with all of us keeping an eye out, maybe someone will spot the Northern Leopard Frog (last seen in 1995)! Deb Patla has agreed to be the “point of contact” and will confirm sightings and forward information to the appropriate agencies as well as the NatureMapping project.

This project was funded by 1% for the Tetons–please support the businesses that even in the worst financial times, have committed to putting their dollars into tangible programs that directly benefit the creatures and landscape around us!

Come early–as part of the Center’s weeklong Open House, Jackson Hole Music Experience’s Friday Live will feature the Miller Sisters in the Center Lobby starting at 5:00. There will be chili as well as beverages available, so you won’t have to leave if you get hungry.

6:30–Peter Murphy will demonstrate amphibian radio tracking and discuss telemetry research

7:00–FROGS: The Thin Green Line, introduced by Director Allison Argo

8:00–Discussion and Q&A with biologists and filmmaker

I got it in my in box. Did you? To get on Amphibian Ark’s list to receive this directly, just CLICK HERE.

Kevin Zippel, program officer for Amphibian Ark, shared with me a recent paper he helped author with other frog-erati of the herpetology world, all of them associated with the Herpetologists Education Committee of the
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR)
. I know my daughters, when in elementary school, were thrilled when the classroom would adopt a snake or a guinea pig. What great lessons occur when a teacher instructs children how to care for an animal, and when children take turns providing that care. Now a movement is under foot to involve classrooms in the rescue and care of amphibians. A noble idea, but one fraught with danger if the amphibian were to catch a disease from a reused aquarium, and then is released back into the wild, introducing a dangerous new pathogen to a woodland area or pond.

Zippel and company overview the situation, and provide practical steps that teachers should take, in the paper you can access by clicking here.

I found it interesting that the authors go out of their way to not condemn the idea of bring amphibians into the classroom. Here’s an excerpt I particularly liked:

It was of primary importance to us not to simply squelch this classroom exercise for
reasons of risk avoidance. To us, this exercise is a great example of the spirit of
encouraging a collective public conscience of “bioliteracy” outlined so eloquently by
Ehrlich and Pringle (2008:11584):

“The earlier in the developmental process comes exposure to
nature, the better the odds of inspiring devotion to biodiversity
and its conservation. It is a rare conservationist who did not
encounter nature as a child. Every one of us can go to
elementary schools to show pictures of animals and plants and
tell funny stories about ecology. The teachers will be happy to
have us. More ambitious people might think about how to
finance and institutionalize school field trips to natural areas.”

San Diego Zoo hosted a conference of scientists to review new, stringent standards for making sure amphibians don’t have the frog killer chytrid fungus as they come to zoos for “protective custody” against the many forces that are wiping them out in the wild. Story here.

Here’s a terrific story and video of the new amphibian education exhibit for kids at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. Looks like a lot of fun, with an important message.

On the occasion of Darwin’s 200th birthday on Feb. 12, 2009 (last Thursday), a National Science Foundation researcher spoke at length about Amphibian Ark and the “relentless waves of amphibian die-offs in  Central America.”  Here’s the story in New York Times. The story contains a sobering statistic: when Darwin was living, there were 1 billion people on earth; today, there are 1 billion teenagers. How we learn to protect the earth’s diversity as we march toward adding the population equivalent of two Chinas by 2050 is arguably our greatest challenge. Excerpt:

He talked about the “Amphibian Ark” project, which grew out of an amphibian conservation summit focused on the die-offs, in which samples of frogs from areas ahead of the approaching fungus were taken for safekeeping and breeding to zoos and aquariums – perhaps to be re-established in the wild at some point.

If you’re familiar with the amphibian crisis, you know that between one-third and one-half of all species could disappear in our lifetime unless efforts like Amphibian Ark can rally the planet to avert what would be the most significant mass extinction since the dinosaur. But this statistic reported in Mongabay.com, about the decline of salamanders in Central America, is particularly sobering and alarming: “Overall the average number of salamanders documented by researchers per visit … fell from nearly 80 in the 1970s to 1.8 between 2005 and 2007, a drop of 98 percent.” For the full story, click HERE. It was great to post recently about new amphibian species discoveries in Colombia and India, but this story jolts us back to the grim trend.

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